WINDHAM – The school board for Windham and Raymond decided Wednesday to move forward with a proposal to prohibit bus drivers from picking up students who live on private roads.

Under the proposal, parents who live on private roads would have to take their children to designated bus stops along major roads. Those stops would be determined by Michael Kelly, transportation director for Regional School Unit 14.

The proposal, which will affect students who live on 11 private roads in Windham, will be the subject of a meeting later this month.

The school board began crafting the policy four months ago to make Windham consistent with Raymond, which prohibits bus drivers from picking up students on private roads.

Some of the private roads are considered unsafe for school buses.

At a workshop Wednesday, the school board debated whether to prohibit buses on private roads, or approve some private roads as safe to drive. Board member Kate Brix said safety must be the priority.

“We want our students to be safe at the bus stops,” Brix said. “Our responsibility is from the bus stop and the walk on the bus. It’s not from the house to the bus stop.”

Michael Duffy, vice chair of the school board, favors an idea to let bus drivers pick up students on some private roads. He said the transportation director could determine which roads meet safety standards. Some board members argued that the transportation director is not a road inspector.

“We are restricting ourselves by saying not to go down them,” Duffy said.

Windham has nearly 100 private roads. The 11 that buses now serve are Bittersweet Way, Brown Cove and Collins Pond Roads, Evans Ridge, Harvest Hill; and Laskey, Linnell, Quinn, Sabbady Point, Sandbar, and Woldbrook Roads.

The proposal has drawn harsh criticism from parents and from town officials, who fear that residents will demand that the town designate their roads as public. That could increase plowing, repair and other costs at a time when Windham is struggling to balance its budget.

Town Manager Tony Plante said the policy could put pressure on the town to take over some private roads. He said every mile of road would cost the town several thousand dollars to maintain.

“It’s a possible unintended consequence,” Plante said in an interview.

The school board came under fire from about 20 parents who attended a meeting about the proposal last week. Board members discussed their concerns at Wednesday’s workshop.

Catriona Sangster, a board member, said the concerns are legitimate.

A policy committee will finalize the proposal and present it to the school board later this month. There will be two readings with public comments. At the second reading, the board will likely make a decision.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]